As the restaurant industry gears up for a long road to economic recovery, operators can play the long game and capitalize on opportunities to develop effective restaurant marketing strategies in a post-COVID landscape.
According to research:
- 90% of guests research a restaurant online before actually going there: a practice done more in this industry compared to others.
- 35% of guests discover restaurants through online reviews and the restaurant’s website.
- There is a 20% to 40% likelihood that customers will spend time in restaurants that they have engaged with on social media.
- 50% of consumers expect a response on social media within 30 minutes. However, only half of companies meet this expectation.
These stats highlight the importance of having a strong digital presence. With traditional advertising efforts yielding less than expected results, and with people relying on user-generated (instead of promotional) content to research their options, brands should turn to digital-first restaurant marketing strategies to effectively get results from their customer acquisition techniques and retention efforts.
- Prioritize local listing management
- Build an effective brand website
- Track, manage, and respond to online reviews (online review management)
- Drive engagement on social media
- Apply best practices in search engine optimization (SEO)
Prioritize Local Listings Management
Because consumers today interact digitally with brands, restaurant operators must claim and manage their local listings. Apart from popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, restaurants must also plant their flags on sites that function as business directories, online yellow pages, reservations platforms, or restaurant review sites. These include Google My Business, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Grubhub, and OpenTable, to name a few.
Getting control of your local listings also cements your foothold on your own brand reputation. With each listing, you can add or update contact information, add appealing photos, and acquire positive customer reviews that attract new guests.
Build an Effective Brand Website
Local listings are a must-have in any restaurant marketing strategy. At the same time, operators should not lose sight of their core web property: the brand website. With a notable percentage of guests discovering new restaurants through this channel, you must invest in efforts that build a solid foundation for your website. Here are some actionable tips:
- Invest in design and web structure so that your website is on-brand, usable, and optimized for conversion
- Set a solid content strategy so that customers gain value from the information you publish on your site
- Foster consistency in your brand messaging so that the content is tailored to your target audience
- Create location pages as part of your customer acquisition strategy
- Post your restaurant menus online, and provide any additional information potential customers may look for (such as your locations, operating hours, modes of payment, reservations process, etc.)
Adding reviews to your website — for example, through a review widget suite like Amplify — also helps your brand gain visibility in the eyes of potential new customers. Moreover, these reviews provide the social proof visitors need in order to guide their purchase decisions.
Track, Manage, and Respond to Online Reviews
Online review management should also be part of every operator’s restaurant marketing strategy. Research found that 72% of customers won’t take action before they read reviews. According to the Online Reviews Survey, 94% say a negative review has convinced them to avoid a business.
In other words, reviews shape your restaurant’s brand reputation. Positive reviews that highlight delicious food, exceptional service, and a great customer experience are effective social proof for diners. Learning how to respond to negative reviews is also a marketable trait that appeals to today’s consumers. According to the Online Reviews Survey, writing a well-crafted response to disgruntled diners is enough to convince 44% to visit the restaurant.
Whether you’re managing a small business or a national chain with hundreds of restaurant locations, it’s clear that online reviews have a direct impact on your business reputation and revenue.
However, managing online reviews on third-party business review sites is a lot of work. To ensure efficiency, consider investing in a software solution like ReviewTrackers, which centralizes your reviews and helps your organization stay on top of what customers are saying. You definitely don’t want to be logging in and out of every review site manually. Remember: the clock begins ticking once reviews are posted, and customers are waiting to hear back from you.
Drive Engagement on Social Media
Social media marketing for restaurants can be a powerful strategy for acquiring and retaining customers. According to Cornell University, 75% of independent restaurants and 59% of chains and franchise brands use social media as a way to attract diners.
Facebook has been the most popular social media platform for restaurants for several years now. However, the industry’s usage of Instagram has continued to increase. It’s a great app for creating visual appeal for your brand: Instagram’s focus on high-quality images means that restaurants can effectively use it to display photos of their menu offerings.
It’s important to think of social media as something more than a place to spread your brand message and publish promotional content. It also functions as a useful customer service channel, transforming how your brand handles customer complaints, issues, and expectations.
When the voice of the customer speaks on social media, be there to listen and respond. Use the channel to discover customer trends, make actionable changes, and optimize community management efforts. Just like online review sites, your brand’s activities on social media should be part of your customer experience management culture.
Apply SEO Best Practices
Local SEO research shows that 35% of all search queries are local. Optimizing your local listings, social media channels, and brand website to show up on the first page of local search engine results pages (SERPs) can attract new eyes to the restaurant.
Marketing assets that can be leveraged to build and improve your SEO infrastructure include blog posts, landing pages, location pages, infographics, online reviews, digital menus, and high-quality photos and videos. Meanwhile, link building, keyword research, link outreach, guest posting optimizing for “businesses near me” searches, and content audits are a few best practices you can’t go wrong with.
While manually correcting and updating business information such as name, address, and phone numbers across your web pages and local listings can be tedious and time-consuming, a local listings solution can expedite the process for your brand.
An Effective Restaurant Marketing Strategy For All Restaurateurs
It’s important to note that these strategies don’t just work for new or up-and-coming restaurants. Long-standing establishments or popular franchises can incorporate these into their restaurant marketing strategy to increase exposure and attract more customers.
You might not see the changes immediately, but continuing to use these skills on a regular basis will help you acquire and retain loyal customers in the long run.